Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Writing Gets In The Way Of Being A Writer

Following the post from a few days about getting organized I sat down today and wrote out a long list most people would probably find ridiculous. I took out the file folders for each of the books I have already written, or at least began, and made a plan for moving forward on all of them. I have editing, rewrites, sending out to betas, submitting to agents or formatting for self-publishing, cover design as well as cover reveals and book releases on the list for more than half a dozen projects.

One of the things that has been bugging me recently is that I love to write. I don't mean that there is anything wrong with writing. It is, in fact, the best part of being a "writer". The problem arises when I enjoy the creating aspect of the job so much that instead of taking the time to finish a book through the first draft and then settle into the process of editing (Something I am terrible at) sending off to my betas (another part that scares me) and then formatting and submitting to publish or sending off query letters to agents for a traditional publisher (Yikes!) I will simply set that finished draft aside and being writing an entirely new book.

It is difficult to make a name for yourself as an author if you release a book every two to three years, especially if you are doing so in the Indie publishing world. I fail to make my presence felt on social media as strongly as need be but part of that is because I have such little in the way of offerings. I am proud of both my books and I have more ideas swirling in my head than I could probably complete in a lifetime but I struggle with the following through part of the process. I just love to write.

The large dry-erase board in my office is currently filled with the to do lists for eight books. There are two books I didn't include at the moment though they have at least been started. Chocolate Covered Cherries in a romance I have battled with for a few years now and Voices 2 is almost complete for a first draft. Neither of them made the board though two books Crash and Combat are both on there. With the completion of Fish, Crash, and Combat along with the editing / rewriting of Sharing Strength I will be able to release an entire series. Sharing Strength is a full length novel with the rest being background story type novellas.

Voices is a four book series. It is technically a trilogy with a fourth book linked to the series by association as opposed to direct narrative. I am planning to use Nanowrimo this year to draft the third installment of the Voices series. One I am done drafting Voices 3 and putting the finishing touches on Voices 2 I will be working hard to finish the first drafts of the novellas in the Sharing Strength series. After those are all done I will start to hate life as I put my creative side on a shelf for awhile and work only on  editing and moving the completed books toward publication.

It will be a long road but I will be much happier when I am able to look at the books I have to offer my readers and know I have done my best to reach my potential more fully. When I am caught back up I will be able to reclaim my happy spot in the writing chair and then hopefully I can take a book from concept to publish much more smoothly so I do not get this traffic jam of manuscripts in the future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Following The Plan

I went through my office today and realized the level of disorganized mess I have been trying to work in. I do my best to have files for each of my books but I found a pile of notepad pages full of notes that all belongs in different files. I also make to do lists from time to time in an effort to keep me focused but I noticed I have lists on half a dozen notepads between my office and the computer bag I carry with me. I have so much information but my failure comes in the execution stage.

I keep the files in my office but I rarely work out of the office therefore I end up carrying things with me and the files never become whole. I have calendars, lists and lists of lists around me all the time but there is no cohesive system for using the information. I am getting ready to begin a series that will require a good amount of research, interviewing people and figuring out a long term plan for some of the recurring characters. I need to develop a better system for working so I can stay on top of things and make sure the characters develop correctly and I can keep all of the information straight.

My biggest concern is my easily distracted mind tends to lead to a fully distracted lifestyle that can become increasingly erratic until I become overwhelmed. It is one of the reasons I have six complete books written but they have never been edited, submitted or prepared for publishing. I intend to finish them but I get distracted working on a different story. The next thing I know I am printing out the first drafts of half a dozen stories for the sake of editing but I see the amount of work and my mind finds something shiny and new to play with instead.

I am hoping putting myself back to work on this blog and keeping an now repetitious list with me in every conceivable working location will do some good in making me move forward. There is a great amount of potential if I could just manage to stay on track for a week or so at a time with each project. Right now I have created a plan broken down into individual steps for nine books that are somewhere between conceptualizing and editing so I can take it one baby step at a time and feel like I am accomplishing something.

In many ways I view my writing journey the way I did my weight loss. I struggled when I couldn't see any visible results. I gave up, got overwhelmed and found reasons to make it more difficult on myself than it needed to be. If I can just focus, use the tools I am developing and slowly but sure cross those things off the list I know I can accomplish my plans. I can have my books published and when I attend the next few books shows I can have more to offer my readers in order to grow my brand and reader base. Now if I can just remember where I set the pen down at, I can cross writing another blog post off the to do list.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Staying On Track

Over the past nearly two months things have been crazy. From making sure my house didn't flood from my exploded hot water heater to losing my sweet cat and finding a way to make ends meet when the hours at my part time job were cut simultaneously with one of the worst sick episodes of my life and a sprinkle of being in a friend's wedding I have neglected my blog, I'm sorry. I have decided to start earlier this year in my preparations for next year's goals but all it has shown me is how far from organized I really am.

I have managed to get myself in an odd predicament where I have several first drafts waiting to be worked on and several ideas wanting to be written but I am so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of potential I have ended up at a standstill. As of right now I have six books written that are waiting to be edited, formatted and released or at least submitted for consideration. I have another two dozen story ideas either as part of different series or stand alone books that are clamoring to be written and a few sort stories I would love to submit to different magazines, collections and competitions.

In order to move forward as an author I need to develop a newsletter and keep up here far more often than I have been doing but I am also about to take on a second job for the foreseeable future making my time extremely limited. It does not help that my understanding of the marketing subjects is just as limited if not more so, than my time. Plus I have the multi-author books signing for charity I help plan coming up in February.

I have always been scattered and do not stay organized well so I need to find a way to spend more time in my office and working on a scheduled list of items so I can continue to accomplish things and start getting books released. I have so much potential work I think I could do well if I am just able to take those precious next steps. It is my intention to spend more time here with you and share the triumphs, trials and setbacks as they happen. I would invite anyone that wishes to share their own experiences with my by replying here or joining me over at my website writingforces.com.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Potential

A few days ago I wrote about having a very productive day followed by a day where I did almost nothing at all. The difference for the most part was my to do list. When I got up on Friday I have well over a dozen things to accomplish but on Saturday it was down to only two. For some reason having that larger list of things to complete made the sense of urgency rise and I was able to get myself up and start crossing things off.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the all powerful To Do list would have that effect one me. I changed a few years ago from making New Year's resolutions to setting goals for the upcoming year and started getting a lot more done. Even this morning I saw a friend posted on Facebook about a few things she had gotten checked off her list and was moving on to the next item before settling down to finish the last task. It immediately made me want to check things off a To Do List of my own.

I have attempted schedules in the past, hoping they would get me on track. However, because I work part time and therefore have varying times I have to be at my day job, that set schedule does not work well. Instead I think I am going to try something different. I will be on vacation for the week starting tomorrow because I have family visiting but during that time I am going to make a list of goals to achieve for the following week and then I will be breaking dow the list to daily check lists according to the days I work and the days I am off. I am also setting deadlines for myself to see how much I can truly accomplish and if my will power is strong enough to get things done.

I have always been a person of ambition that fails on the follow through. It has only been in the last few years that I have found ways past that to complete a portion of the goals I set out to achieve. I battle the insecurities, the lack of knowledge, and the fear of asking for help for fear of looking incompetent. I am saying now that I am sick of it. I love the feeling of crossing things off my to do list and knowing I accomplished something. Whether it is something as simple as vacuuming my house or as big as publishing my next book, it doesn't matter. I have the power to be more successful and productive. Now is the time to see if I have the will power to live up to my potential.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Characters Human

Yesterday I saw an author asking for help with their novel. The main character experienced a painful divorce but it was never stated why the divorce happened. The author was looking for something other than infidelity that the female reporter would have gone through the divorce and everyone that commented suggested things the husband could have done to cause a lack of trust. Ideas such as him being upset because she was having money trouble and not getting work or him keeping secrets from her. I was the only one to suggest that perhaps something she did caused him to not trust her and even if it wasn't true the riff between them was too difficult to over come.

The pain in the divorce, in my eyes, was that it was a misunderstanding but even though she tried to explain and he still loved her it was something they never were able to get past. I was the only one to make it not one hundred percent on the husband. The author messaged me personally to ask later where I had come up with my idea. I said after I read through all of the others targeting the husband and making everything his fault I felt compelled to come to his defense. I knew it wasn't my story and that I didn't know back story but it struck me how one sided everyone else's ideas seemed to be. A lot of divorces are caused by issues on both sides.

We have a tendency to see our characters as perfect and therefore when it comes to there being problems in the story we want to protect them and make it someone else's fault. The problem is that by making them a victim and completely perfect it makes them less than believable. It feels hard to relate to someone without flaws so it can hold back your book from reaching the readers the way you had intended. We chatted for awhile, the other author and I, about my gut reaction to defend someone I knew nothing about. While I have no idea if my reason for the divorce is something that will be used I know they are going to incorporate flaws into the main character to make her more human.

It was an eye opener to me even to have such a reaction. That humanity element is something that seems so simple yet gets overlooked in a number of books I have read. I am adding it to my ever growing list of things to look for when I write and edit so I can make sure my characters aren't too one dimensional. Perfection is good in many things in life but when it comes to writing characters I think it is more important to be relatable than perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Motivating Factors

One of the writing groups I a member of had a question posted to it today about making the most out of available time. It is a recurring topic not only on social media groups but also in my everyday life in general. For me, even though I could definitely improve in this category, it isn;t the main focus. Yes, it would be incredible to get up everyday with my to do list and go to sleep every night knowing I crossed off all of the tasks. Of course, I would love to say I am a living model of efficiency and management. Neither of those things is close to happening at the moment.

Last Thursday as I sat at work on one of my breaks making a To Do list that was quickly mounting to the unachievable level. At the end of the day I had managed to remember seventeen tasks that needed to be completed. Granted, five of them were things to do around the house and two of them were writing in each of my current projects, but there were still a number of things I had to get done. They included having work done on my car, closing an account at the bank, running a few errands, grocery shopping, working out and that was just the top of the list.

I got up at six Friday morning and headed to get my car worked on. I even took my computer with me to start working on the writing aspect of my day. I ended up only getting a blog post published before they were done with my service appointment but that meant I could go to Zumba in the morning instead of Yoga in the afternoon. I ran home to get my gym clothes and went to workout. Next came all the errands including the bank and grocery shopping. When I got home I made lunch and set to work on the cleaning. Then I sat down. My biggest mistake was thinking I could rest for just a few minutes while watching some tv.

I never wrote another word that day. I got up Saturday morning feeling every second of my Zumba class. I planned to go to the gym that afternoon but first I wanted to watch something I had recorded and have some breakfast. What ended up starting with good intentions resulted in lying on the love seat watching eleven hours of shows on my DVR plus a nap. I never touched my computer or wrote at all. I went from the most productive day in months to the laziest one all year.

For me it isn't about managing my time; it is about keeping my motivation. I get distracted to a level most would find frightening. I have a tremendous amount of ambition but I veer off course like it is my job. I keep hoping if I set a schedule it will help but so far that hasn't been the case. Instead I think I am going to try making a weekly list of goals so I can cross things off. I love that feeling so maybe it will help motivate me to keep on track better. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Thank You

Almost two weeks ago I lost my sweet kitty Puppy. She was my PTSD therapy animal as well as my fur baby and best animal friend. I have been struggling severely to feel anything other than her loss since that day. I had one day, this past Monday, the I felt somewhat productive as I added just under 4700 words to my two current books. That feeling of accomplishment was short lived but it was an amazing refresher from the incredible sadness that has dominated me for over ten days.

I have a number of bad habits that without constant watching I fall into. Most of them are emotionally driven so dealing with this pain has caused them to surface with force. The two most easily recognized is my lack of activity and my emotional eating. I don't have great eating habits to begin with and when I am feeling anything (I mean anything from intense joy to devastating sorrow) I tend to eat. This usually results in large amounts of chips, cookies, ice cream, cake and a personal favorite, cheese. There is no such thing as moderation for me when I am consuming for the sake of drowning feelings. Food is my version of alcohol abuse.

Just as that brief moment of productivity fueled a desire to do more leading to me cleaning my house and making a delicious and healthy dinner, my frustrations have a tendency to compound dragging me further down day after day. If I spend a day getting nothing finished I will feel more overwhelmed the next day causing me to have less energy and motivation. Things truly can spiral out of control so quickly that I feel like I am drowning without realizing I was even getting wet. 

Life in general I believe is a mind over matter situation. The problem is I am so rarely in control of my mind. I fight with my depression and stress. I get bogged down trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel and feel like I will never escape the darkness. I am fortunate that I do not make the journey alone anymore. I opened up about my problems a few years ago and have found a support system that has been invaluable. Without them I would have fallen long ago and never recovered. Through my friends and family I have learned to celebrate any victory and use that to push me forward for more. I have also learned to make small changes slowly instead of trying to tackle every issue at once.

Something as simple as eating better for one week and only focusing on that can make a dramatic difference. When I see those couple pounds come off and feel the energy that comes from eating fruit instead of candy it makes me want to be more active. I take that small win and add a class or two at the gym that I enjoy such as Zumba, yoga or water aerobics. The sense of accomplishment there gives me the boost to go home and quickly do some chores around the house and then I sit down to write just 500 or 1000 words. I reward myself with being able to sit and play games on my phone or watch some episodes of a show on my DVR guilt free because of everything I was able to do. 

The next day when I get up I remind myself of everything I was able to complete the day before. This is used to help me push forward and have another good day. When the good things become habit and replace the bad ones things are much easier but it can take weeks or months to truly program yourself to reach that point. With my health issues and dealing with emotional setbacks I find I fall down way before I get to the habit stage. It can seem impossible to fight back from that and it is so easy to just give up.

That is the other part I have worked to handle better on this path, setbacks. My insecurities and a large part of the conditioning I went through in my previous relationship make me feel that any small slip is a total failure. That stops all of my productivity immediately. It has taken over a decade of my life to acknowledge and accept that it is ok to fall. It is important to get back up and not let a bend become a break. Life is hard but if you can embrace the good times and use them to support you when the hard times bear down you can find that mind over matter I struggle so much with. 

Writing has been a huge joy in my life and having that outlet has saved me one numerous occasions. I cannot begin to explain just how much I appreciate the support of everyone around me. When I opened up with Survivor I received more understanding and help than I ever expected. It is still hard for me to admit when I am struggling but I am reminded day in and day out that there are others out there just like me. Together we are stronger than we are alone and we can accomplish anything.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Writing To Be Funny

Last night I was talking to my co-author for an upcoming book. We were discussing an entertaining story we had seen shared online in an occupational forum. We both work in the casino world as dealers for a day job and a dealer from another casino had shared a great come back line they had witnessed. It is often a subject among dealers on breaks as to what the best way to handle particular players / bosses / other dealers would be.

As we read through the story, laughing the entire time, it struck us that we may have a problem with the book we are writing. Our's is supposed to be a funny, snarky, sarcastic book but we aren't sure if it will come across that way or as a lecture which not only could but probably would be quite off-putting to those venturing into its pages. The problem is, after a great deal of discussion, we have no idea how to fix it. We don't even know if it needs to be fixed or not.

Humor writing is an art. Technically all writing is an art but there is a subtlety to the nuances of humor writing that can easily be lost for someone unfamiliar with the style. I have been told in person I can be very funny. In person however, it is a performance piece. I am a perform by nature and can use pauses, facial expressions and gestures to help the story along. Writing to make people laugh is much more difficult.

Many of the stories I share in the book I have told to friends and family. They have all laughed and ad follow up conversations but again, inflection can go a long way. Currently I am reading books in the genre of humor / satire in order to try and find some ways to help my own work along. Sometimes there are just parts of the process that are harder than others.

People believe that writing comes naturally for authors, and in many ways it does. Most of us see stories playing out in our minds, hear characters talking to us and have that nagging need to get words on paper before they drive us crazy. What may not come naturally is writing in a particular genre. I write drama. I have serious books covering serious and sometimes difficult topics. Writing to make people laugh is not a task I have ever tried before. I know the subject matter works from the in person deliveries I have attempted, now I just need to find out if it will translate to the written form as well.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Don't I Fit In?

On Saturday I joined a group of other authors at a local indie book store for a signing. When I arrived I saw the author that invited me but I didn't know any of the other authors in attendance. Because of the layout of the store we were not all sitting together so part of the event was spent walking around to the different tables in corners of the store to talk about our work and meet one another more formally.

I never mentioned it out loud, though a couple others did, but I was the youngest author there but close to twenty years. It is strange because when I am chatting in groups online there is a range of ages. Because social media was developed in the last decade the younger generation tends to have a larger presence online. In fact I tend to feel far too old and out of my element when conversing online.

In person seems to be different though. When I go to events like Authorpalooza or Vegas Valley Book Festival there are authors there of all ages. Some older than me, some younger but all there for the same reason. At writer's groups I stand out as one of the younger attendees and at all of these events I am noticeable because I am usually more social than most. It seems no matter where I go I don't fit in. That used to bother me but I have found it can be helpful if used in the right way.

When I went to the conference in January it was remarked upon everyday that I was the social butterfly. I talked to almost everyone, I listened to stories, shared experiences and ate meals at a different table every chance I got. I networked with every group there and volunteered for the game night event. I wanted to interact and be seen. That is where I shine. It also is a trait that doesn't have an age attached to it.

There are so many author stereotypes but I somehow don't seem to fit enough for most people to believe I fall into the author category. It can be frustrating to be seen as an outcast in a group of outcasts. I don't dye my hair pink or blue or purple, I am not prolific with photoshop and understand the nuances of social media. I am a performer at heart and an extreme extrovert to my core. I don't fit in. But maybe that means someday I will truly be meant to stand out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fighting Fear

I have discussed many times all the symptoms and effects of my PTSD. I still deal with several of them on a weekly, if not daily, basis with the biggest one being fear. I still get nightmares. I occasionally have flashbacks. Those aren't the problems I usually need help with though. It is the constant insecurity. I am terrified of rejection, of not being good enough. In fact one of my trademark moves was to snuggle with my cat before a book signing to calm the nerves then come home and cuddle with her again, either to cry about the failure or celebrate an unexpectedly good day.

That fear follows me everywhere and has the ability to halt progress on my work without me even realizing it. I watch other authors as they sit and write daily. They promote like crazy and attend signings all over the country. It seems they are releasing a book every six months if not more while I sit back and observe. Why not me? I have been known to whine. Why can't I do that? Why don't I have more books out? The answer is simple; I'm afraid.

Not counting the close to two dozen book ideas I have files for stacked up in my office, not counting the two I am currently writing side by side, just the books that are finished and only need to be edited and published, I am sitting on six books ready to go. They have been written, in some cases they have even had a quick run through for major editing concerns and a few have had a beta reader or two go through them. They just never moved beyond that stage.

I'm afraid. I have these big ideas of how things are going to go when I publish the next one. I can picture how I would incorporate another book into my display at shows and I have a list of nearly one hundred places to promote my books. I have excerpt ideas to use as promos and teasers. I even picked out tagline for some. I have ideas for covers. Some books have special swag that would be fun to hand out. All of these plans fall short though because I don't complete the process.

Every time I start to go through a book I get overwhelmed. Just as I have ideas filling my head with ambition while I am writing, I get bogged down in the possibilities of failure when I try to move forward. That frozen feeling at one point stopped even the writing part of the process. I am thankful I have gotten past that but now when I finish the drafts of the books I am working on there will be eight, yes eight, full books ready to be edited and published.

I make excuses such as I don't know how to make promos and teasers because I don't have photoshop. I am still very new at the publishing thing and I don't know how to format. I don't have the money to order swag anyway so why bother creating any? I can't afford a good editor and I don't want to put out junk so I should wait.  All reasons I have used in the past. The are excuses and nothing more. I didn't know how to create a website but through trial and error I have learned. I don't know how to make a newsletter but I subscribed to several so I can learn to do that too. I can learn to edit better myself to save money and just have someone go through to fine tune. I can barter with people to share our talents. It is all possible if I can just find a way to get through the fear.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pushing Through

Today is my fifth book signing of the year. It is the first in the last few months and I was the one to arrange the first of the year but still this is the third of what I'm hoping will be close to a dozen during 2017. I should be excited. I should be feeling that combination of nerves and deep motivation to sit down and write. Last night I should have been tossing and turning with the constant questioning of whether everything I packed into the back of my car was actually everything I will need for the signing today.

I haven't even begun to pack the car. For the first time, maybe ever, I am struggling to get excited. Don't get me wrong, I love going to signings. Today's signing is even more special because it is a fundraiser for Alzheimer's. While I do not personally have any family of friends that suffer from this debilitating disease, my favorite author of all time passed away from it. Sit Terry Pratchett, we miss you.

I will be taking part in this event from one until four this afternoon and I am happy I was invited to join the wonderful group of authors that will be there. This will just be the first time I have had to attend a signing when my heart wasn't completely in it. Normally the week leading up to a signing it is all I can think about. I write every spare moment I get because going to an author event reminds why I love doing what I do. I pack at least a day in advance then check over my stuff at least a couple times to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. Other than getting a thousand words written in Fish the other night I haven't done any of the things I normally do.

It is strange how much losing a pet can feel like losing any other family member. When I lost my dad I went back to school, began traveling, even started facing some of my personal fears. I find that losing my beautiful girl Puppy recently makes me want to shake things up again and those feelings are distracting me from the normal writing process. I am hoping after I get done at the signing I will feel that familiar tingle to come home and work. If not I may need to accept that a short break could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Guess I will have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Four days ago my boyfriend woke me up to tell me the worst thing I could imagine. My cat was struggling to breathe. I know many people will read that line and think, "It's just a cat" or "It could be worse, could have been a person". Both of theses are true but she was so much more than a pet to me.

A week and a half earlier I had come home from work to find her breathing heavily as though she were trying to get rid of a hairball. She settled and so I didn't think much of it until she began doing it again a few hours later. When we took her to the ER Vet clinic they found a large amount of fluid in her chest. It was compressing her lungs and her heart causing the pain and difficulty we had observed.  They were able to sedate her and withdraw the fluid but there were questions that remained. Would it come back? Why did it accumulate in the first place? Was my sweet kitty going to be ok?

We brought her home and for the first few days she sulked and avoided us and the other cats. Her anti-social mood was not completely unnatural for her but it still concerned me. Eventually she forgave us. She rejoined the family as we watched tv. She slept next to me at night. She would even take the time to make sure the other cats still saw her as the dominant force.  My baby was back to normal.

That feeling was short-lived. Six days after bringing her home she again retreated to quiet rooms like the office or the closest to separate herself from the rest of us. She was still eating and drinking, she did everything a regular cat does but there was just something different about her. Our regular vet told us Friday that the fluid may already be coming back and that we should keep a close eye on her. After work we checked on her but nothing had changed, good or bad. She was just still hiding away.

Saturday I spent time helping a friend with a craft project and when I got home she was in the office. I couldn't be sure if I was imagining it but she seemed a little weaker. I couldn't get that thought out of my head. I kept getting up all night to go check on her in the office. I laid with her, I pet her and told her I was there. I would periodically try to go to bed but I just couldn't sleep. Finally when I went to bed close to six in the morning she came in with me. She jumped up on the nightstand the way she used to and when I was lying down she crawled up next to me and purred. That is what finally put me to sleep.

A couple hours later my boyfriend woke me to tell me she wasn't doing well. We again rushed her to the vet but I knew what the prognosis would be. At 9:45am my beautiful baby girl passed away in my arms. She was my PTSD therapy animal, my loving family member, and the true love of my life. I have never had a bond like I did with her and now she is my guardian angel. The last day she felt like herself and I was writing I managed to get almost six thousand words down. I haven't written a word since. My heart is broken. She was my muse and my comfort. My heart goes out to all the fur baby muses of my fellow writers. They are our purest joy. I miss you baby girl, I love you.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours

Recently it seems that no matter what direction I am working to make strides in all I am really doing is taking away from somewhere else. I need to work as much as possible in order to stay on top of my bills. I have been getting more hours which is exactly what I need but somehow the bills just keep piling up. I feel like I am making headway with some and then a new one will appear putting me right back in the same position I was before.

I am even debating taking on another job. Freelance writing, work from home bookkeeping, even going back to deal at a second casino again are all possibilities I need to consider. However pushing my body that hard, especially the two casinos thing, has always led to major medical episodes which would in turn mean less hours and more bills. It is a n unfortunate catch 22. All of this creates a huge source of stress in my day.

I have three main ways I deal with stress, two are healthy while one simply exacerbates the issue. The  unhealthy way is that I am an emotional eater. Whether I am happy, sad, frustrated, celebrating, depressed or handling any other emotion my go to way to deal with it is to eat. Of course emotional eating is never a salad or grilled chicken breast, no emotional eating is sitting down with a carton of ice cream and a spoon then eating until you physically can't anymore or there is nothing left in the container. Sadly that is something I have done many times. I am working to do the other two instead.

The first health way I have of handling stress is to exercise. When I feel the anxiety building up I go swim laps, run on the gym track or take a class. I also try to motivate myself into taking classes in the mornings before work just to keep me moving forward. The second coping strategy is writing. Here again I find a conundrum.

I love taking a solid day at the coffee shop to write. I can get five or six thousand words written in a project that is flowing well. I can even get home in time to get a few chores done and make dinner. I am only able to do that during the week though because I spend time with my boyfriend when we are both off on the weekends. With the extra days I am working all being weekdays it makes it more difficult to get the writing done. I can get stalled and not accomplish anything for a week so I lose my momentum.

Now on top of everything else I am going crazy because my sweet kitty is very sick. I have four cats (yes I know it's a lot and I call them my crazy cat lady starter kit) and they are all seniors. The youngest is ten years old. She is the one I am closest too and the one that is struggling. Vets don't generally offer much beyond maintenance for senior cats and make every suggestion with the phrase "it all depends on how much you want to put her through". I am not prepared to be that much of an adult yet. I cannot make a decision that would take away my beautiful girl.

Bills are showing up from her treatments. I find myself worrying so much I don't sleep. When I can't sleep I can't wake up to go work out and I have to work so I cannot lose myself in my fictional world. I spend my one day off catching up on bills and cleaning so I can try to enjoy the weekend even though I have no money to do anything and all I want is just a way to get on top of things for awhile. Sometimes no matter how hard you push, there are elements at work you cannot overcome. Right now the rain and hail have found me but I will just keep fighting until the sunny days and time to write are back. Until then I would appreciate the use of an umbrella.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Why Not Write Something Happier?

In January I presented the first ten pages of two different books at a conference. I knew neither was completely ready but I wanted to get the feedback and face my extreme fear of speaking with agents face to face. One of the books was Sharing Strength, my book on PTSD. Obviously with the subject matter it is not a light and breezy book. There are intense moments, sad ones and some happy ones as well. Most of all there are times of healing. It is a book about recovery first and foremost.

Each character plays their role. Some have the support they need, others are praying for help. Some seem hopelessly doomed and others hide from those wishing to assist. I have known people in every aspect of what the characters are experiencing and the book is very personal for me. It is so personal, in fact, that when the books was still being written I took a sidestep to Survivor and shared a part of my past I buried for nearly half my life.

I am currently working on another book like Survivor called Fish. It is the story of another character in Sharing Strength and her story is just as tragic. It is understandable that any story that leads to a book about PTSD isn't going to be the happiest thing ever written but some of these revelations are especially emotional. When I was discussing this fact at a networking dinner one of the other writers looked me in the eye and asked, "Why don;t you just write something happier?"

He had attended the conference before and even won an Editor's Choice award the last day I was there. He writes everyday and felt the need to constantly tell me how I should be working, what I should be writing and how to move forward correctly. I temperamental, teenage type mind wanted to lash out and tell him to shut up. I don't write everyday, I can admit that. I make excuses and watch television instead of reading or writing. I go to the gym or camp for the weekend when I have time off. There are several things I do instead of writing. I am also not ashamed of this.

Everyone has their own process. I would love to get to the point where I am writing everyday, or at least five days a week as though it were a traditional job. Family will always be an important and I will always have things that get in the way of writing. Sometimes it is simply the emotions I am having to deal with because I don't write happier things. No matter what I will push forward and hopefully someday I will have more time to dedicate. Until then I am happy writing things that aren't and will continue to improve my personal process instead of feeling bad about my topics and the fact I don't work the way others think I should.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

First Day

Today is the Summer Solstice, aka first day of summer. I live in the burning dry heat sauna that is Las Vegas so we have been experiencing the weather of summer for weeks already but I am looking at the first day as more symbolic. I have been struggling with stress and depression for the past week and a half or so. Between medical problems, missing my dad as I near the ten year mark since he passed away, and of course writing realizations, I have been moping. I hate that I get to that point but it just hasn't been something I could power through.

This morning I woke up after having dreamt about my dad. I am still sad but spending that time with him, even just in my mind, brought a tiny semblance of peace. The medical concerns I am working to overcome and have a plan now to move forward. As for writing, I cannot change the past so being angry with myself about things I failed to do is not going to help. Instead I need to just look  to the future and try not to let those same issues come up again.

I am writing two books simultaneously, Fish, and Last Piece. They are completely different genres but both are flowing well. I also have about half a dozen other books that have already been written and just need to be edited and rewritten. It is a battle even I can barely understand to edit and rewrite once I finish the first draft of a book. I am going to finish Last Piece, and Fish, before I move on to editing but I am determined to get at least half of the previously completed drafts ready for cover and editing before the end of the year.

I have been struggling because I felt stagnant. As it turns out, I was feeling that way because I wasn't taking any of my books and doing anything with them. The process of editing, rewriting, editing again, designing a cover, formatting, publishing (or sending queries and submitting) then of course marketing the book can be extremely overwhelming. The alternative for a writer is to just draft and never get the satisfaction of sharing your work. The feeling of seeing both of my books go live on Amazon, then the moment of holding the paperback copies in my hands have been some of the most exciting in my life. I always call my manager (my mom) and share those moments with her.

I am taking this symbolic first day and the first day of a season I will accomplish my writing to do list and get back to that feeling of being a happy writer moving forward. I will finish both Fish, and Last Piece, then I will edit and start the next phases of at least three of my other projects while getting ready for Nanowrimo. I am excited to feel productive again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Opening Scenes

The wonderful K.M. Weiland posted recently that one way to know you're a writer is how much you obsess over your opening to your book. It is also something I talked to my mom about recently. I love writing but I feel as though I always want to start around chapter five. I struggle to hook the reader and draw them in then create the foundation for that big event that ignites the rest of the story. It is always that moment I can't wait to get to as I am writing because then it feels to me like the adventure truly begins.

When I read or write murder mysteries the death happens almost immediately but for some of my other dramas there are a few chapters that come in to set the tone, introduce the characters and their relationship before any inciting incident comes into play. For those books it is important but difficult for me to draw the readers in, make them care, then bring them on the journey of those characters as the real story begins.

When I sent the first ten pages of two of my stories to agents / editors at the conference earlier this year I was excited to get their feedback. I was curious about my ability to make them want to know more based on just those first few pages. Both people I sent them to asked me for more information but only one in a good way. The editor I sent Voices In My Head to suggested getting rid of the majority of the first ten pages. He gave me some ideas for improving the parts that were left but just as my mind wants to do, he suggested I start further into the story.

The second agent liked the story beginning. Her suggestion was more on point of view for the characters because there are so many main characters in the story. Just like there are a number of characters, there are just as many reasons that all the characters have ended up being who and what they are. I completed the first full draft and am now writing novellas for each of the characters to give the more in depth backgrounds.

I write my stories then go back and rewrite the beginning at least five times before I give up and call it good enough. The end is always on my mind. The characters talk to me constantly but there is something that holds me back when it comes to that opening scene. I am working to get better but, along with dialogue, it continues to be one of the biggest battles I have in my writing.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Living In My Mind

I saw a post earlier today talking about how the writer has found trouble being present for life when not writing. The constant thoughts, the perpetual wondering about plot lines, and the endless stream of distractions all originating from within make it hard to be there for conversations, focus on work, or even just enjoy time with friends and family. I haven't ever thought about it much but once I read through the post I realized how difficult I find many of these same tasks.

I am a casino games dealer in my everyday life so I am in contact with people constantly. There are times I have noticed though, that when I have players who either don't speak English or just prefer not to chat with me I will find my mind drifting off to whatever my most recent writing project had been. The dealing procedures are second nature so There are times I will go through an entire hour on the table but when I leave to go on break my boss will ask me a question about a player I barely remember being there.

I also deal a few games that are a combination of table games and slot machines where the dealer does not interact with the players so it is eight hours of thinking. When I get on break I find it difficult to join the conversations with my coworkers because I spent the last hour mentally living in the world of my characters. Even at home the conversations can be hard to follow because I need to bring myself back from wherever I travelled in my head. I will look right at the person I am speaking with but it seems I have to ask people to repeat themselves so I can focus on what they just told me.

I lose track of time frequently when I start thinking about anything writing related. Driving is another task I notice writing can take over. When I went down to the writer's conference in January I was tired but in order to cover as much distance as possible I put on music. The songs that came on instantly inspired a new story which I then spent the rest of the drive plotting. Other than stopping for a quick nap and navigating some intense weather I barely noticed anything besides the plot outline forming in my head. I have since added the file for that book to my pile in my office. There are almost two dozen files in the pile, most of which were created while I was supposed to be doing something else. I may need to find a way to curb this mental tendency in the future.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

I share about my boyfriend and my mom quite a bit when I blog. They are both active in my life as friends and support. Both have been involved and encouraged me for the time they have been a part of my life. I don't know where I would be without them. It is easy to see why I call them my partner / management team. The truth, however, is that there are others on that team and one is a person I rarely mention, my dad.

Growing up I had a tenuous relationship with my father. We loved each other but we butted heads at least weekly. He expected a great deal from me. I was fully capable of fulfilling that potential and achieving the things he asked of me but I didn't bother to try very often. I played sports but didn't want to put in the effort of practicing to be any better than I was naturally. I could have done well but didn't care enough. He wanted me to get good grades. I was smart yet I was too distracted / lazy to complete my homework often enough to get the grades he desired.

He never asked about my writing or creative endeavors. My dance recitals seemed to be nothing beyond an obligation when he attended. The one thing that never escaped my attention however, he did attend. He came to every performance I had. He only missed one of my hockey games in almost a decade and made it up to me by taking me to see a real hockey game that night. On a few occasions I would see him watching old VHS tapes of my recitals and smiling. He never knew I knew but I even caught him leafing through some of my short stories and poems, He was proud of me.

I lived to make him proud. No matter what I did, how much we fought, I always wanted to make him proud. I cried the day I finally graduated college. I broke down the day I held a copy of my first book in my hands. I even dreamt about telling him why I wrote Survivor the night before the release party. He left to watch over me from heaven almost ten years ago and not being able to share these things with him has always broken my heart a little. I know he is still watching me. I am sure he is still proud and on today, Father's Day, I am battling how much I miss him. He will never sit down and read the words I have written here but I hope he always knows how much I love him and thank him for being an inspiration to finally achieve the things he knew I was capable of.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Concise

Last week I sat with a friend drinking coffee and discussing our different writing styles. He began by writing short stories then eventually progressed to full length novels. Once he had completed his first full novel he found there was much more ahead for the characters and the book instead became a four book series. Now all he writes are series with a few short stories in between. He assumed everyone followed this same pattern of short to long and once they got to long they discovered the books are so much more.

I was the opposite to a point. Yes I wrote poetry (bad poetry I admit) when I was in elementary school and a few attempts through junior high and high school. I wrote a couple essay length stories during that same era but for the most part I have always been a full length writer. Nanowrimo gave me the challenge I needed in order to get going and I haven't looked back. It wasn't until this year that, as an adult, I had anything to do with short stories.

I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, something I am hoping to do again in the coming years. It was difficult on so many levels I almost gave up immediately. The way it works is everyone that registers is put into a group. That group is assigned a genre, character and theme. Mine was a Stay At Home Mom, A Wrong Number, and Thriller. Once you have your assignment you have eight days to write, edit and polish, then submit it for consideration against the rest of your group. The top three move on to the next round where they will get new assignments and only three days to complete it. Each round the allotted words gets smaller as well.

Everyone that submits will get feedback, regardless of moving forward. I was attending a conference the first half of the competition. I had never written a thriller before so I was out my element right away. I managed to submit but it was right at the wire. I knew I wouldn't move forward from the moment I hit send and I was correct. I did, however, read through the feedback which was overall more positive than negative. The most difficult part for me was the word count. I kept seeing ways to expand, go further into detail, and inject description. I couldn't without going over the 2500 words though. As I wrote, then edited, then rewrote again I found the wording to be the challenge I had thought genre would have been.

I am still extremely wordy (as I am sure this post shows) but I am hoping to take part in more of the short story contests to try and expand my abilities. Being concise in writing is an art. I used to think it just meant people didn't know what to say or that they didn't believe in themselves enough to write a longer book. They are actually people with a stronger writing ability than I possess. To take someone on a journey in such a short about of time is incredible. Perhaps once day I will post one of my shorts here so you all can read what I am learning to achieve.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Celebrating Achievement

Today was a barbecue at my house. As a general rule this fact is neither writing related nor very interesting news however, because it was a themed barbecue in honor of a wonderful achievement, it got me thinking. Today was a celebration and it is important to make sure to take time in your life to recognize accomplishments.

I posted a few times in the last month about my support for my boyfriend and his journey across the country in honor of POW / MIA military members. Today the barbecue was to welcome him and other riders back home. Going all the way back to the Vietnam war, and in some respects even before, many of the military returned to more hostility than welcoming arms. They rarely, if ever, heard Welcome Home so those that take part in the ride Run For The Wall each year are constantly greeting each other with the phrase Welcome Home.

Today I had a sign up at the house that said Welcome Home. It is the same sign I welcomed him back with last week. As I was preparing food over the last couple of days I thought about his ride and the emotions that were experienced by everyone from the riders to those that watched as they made their way across the country. It was a physical and emotional journey that was undoubtedly life changing.

I don't claim in any way that completing a fictional novel is in the same category of the ride he participated in but it is a journey nonetheless. Whenever I finish a book draft my boyfriend takes me out to celebrate with dinner or dessert of my choosing. It is a small tradition that means the world to me. Much like the barbecue was put on to show the riders our support and appreciation, his treating me to dinner is a special way to show me he cares and is proud of me.

Some people think you can only celebrate things like getting a publishing contract or a major ride across the country. To me the most important thing is the fact that you are acknowledging the accomplishment for what it is and showing that you care. Achievements may be different levels and the celebrations may be as well but as long as you take a moment and let the person know you are proud and care it can make all the difference in the world.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Writing Conversations

A few years ago I was awake late into the night working on a scene for one of my books. A friend noticed me online and messaged to ask why I was still awake at that hour. My response was, "He just won't die. He knows it is coming and refuses to cooperate. I am not going to sleep until he is finally dead." She didn't ask. She is also a writer. There was no strange silence or subtle changing of subjects as I proceeded to rant about the stubborn character I was working on killing. When I was done fuming she commiserated with me briefly then wished me luck as she headed off to bed herself.

A few days ago I was at my day job discussing a book I am working on and the interesting things I have noticed as I venture into a new genre. I am working on a murder mystery with a twist and I was excited because I was boiling over with ideas for the next part of the story so I couldn't wait to get home. What I actually said out loud was, "I can't wait to get out tonight so I can get home. I know exactly how the investigation is going to go now that I killed the lady."

The gentle easing away from me was more  felt than sen but it was noticeable either way. The guy I was sitting with sat a little straighter and said, "I'm sorry, what?" I explained that I was working on the investigation into the murder of an elderly woman and I was thrilled because I had so many ideas that I couldn't wait to get working on. He raised an eyebrow at me but said nothing. I realized as I felt the rest of the break room slide further away that they were not understanding things the way my writer groups would. So I clarified I was talking about characters in a book.

At once the room breathed a sigh of relief. It was comical to me the seriousness they had attached to my conversation even though they are well aware of my writing aspirations. I then got into a discussion about a character that dies in another book and the guy I had been speaking with told me she didn't have to die, I wasn't trying hard enough to save her. It is worth noting that he has no idea what the book is about or how she plays into the storyline. I took his comments with a grain of salt because not only does he not know the story but he also has never written more than a term paper in his life.

Writers might randomly say things like, "I can't find my encyclopedia of trial killers." and it simply means they are looking for a book for the purposes of research. Other writers will respond with either I hope you find it soon, or if they live close enough to one another perhaps, you can borrow mine. While writers, like any profession, understand each other on a level outsiders usually don't it is worth keeping in mind just how different we are sometimes. We say things the rest of the world may vastly misunderstand. Just be ready to explain when you are having a discussion involving your writing.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Reviving Old Ideas

Recently I was flipping through channels and came across a show I used to love, Scrubs. With my medical history I am far more understanding of the inner workings of a hospital than many I know which means I find anything that lightens that atmosphere to be refreshing.  I enjoy the gentle comedy as well as the underlying relationships that form between the characters. It had been years since the last time I saw the show and immediately started recording it on my DVR.

Watching the show after so long has been like catching up with old friends. I remember the episodes but it is fun to rematch them and see things I had forgotten or never noticed before. I noticed I feel that way as well when I start to work on an idea I either came up with then shelved or drafted but haven't looked at for awhile. It is sort of like coming home.

I recently sent off a short story I am considering pitching to a traditional publisher as a children's book. It is with a beta reader right now and I am waiting for feedback. It is beyond rough so there would be a great deal of work to polish it and have it ready to submit but I had that same feeling when I came across the file for the book. There was a welcoming feeling as I glanced over there words and it brought a smile to my face remembering the story.

There is a sad side to it as well. The story outline was originally discussed between me and another who has since left my life. I will dedicate the book in his memory whatever publishing path I eventually follow and I am indebted to him for his input during the brainstorming process. He was a friend and someone I will miss but I am honored he chose to share his ideas with me and help me come up with the story. He was even my first reader when I began to write it out. He gave feedback and put in ideas from time to time as I continued to develop the story. He was a great sounding board and I hope that once it is published those that knew him will be able to see the story he helped influence. Unfortunately I do not know his family or friends but I hope one day the story will reach them and help bring them closer with him.

Words have that incredible ability. Whether it is characters on a show, a children's book inspired by a friend or a story you have loved since you were little there is nothing like going back to them. Reviving those memories and giving them new life can be just as satisfying as developing new ideas.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Love And Passion

Before I even begin, no I am not writing a romance. There are romantic scenes in some of my books and human interaction is a huge part of the backstory of many of my characters but I have never centered a book around the idea of love and romance. I was, however, having a conversation today about passion, romance, and love. We were discussing the difference between perceptions of love and it got me thinking.

There is a huge difference between lying in bed with someone, saying "Oh my God, I love you baby!" as they bury themselves deep inside you sexually and lying in bed say "Oh my God, I love you baby!" while they wrap you in their arms. The first you can almost hear the moan. It might be passionate, it could be between two people deeply in love, it could also be between two people that met while drunk at a dance club and are caught up in the moment after they rushed to the closest hotel room and shed their clothes. The second feels more like a couple that has been together for awhile. Perhaps something happened and they came together to find a solution to a problem, maybe they just took a big step and got engaged or married. Either way it is touching, intimate, and in no way requires sex to make the feeling understood.

The conversation about the difference got me thinking about things I have read recently. A good author can "Show, not tell" when it comes to a characters emotions. They use the actions to explain the feelings, such as dancing back and forth from one foot to another to demonstrate a character is anxious. Eyes may dart around a room as a light sweat breaks out across a brow to indicate nerves or fear. There are many ways to use this technique. Things can also be left unsaid, which makes the actions that much more important. 

It is an area I have struggled with in the past. I am aware of the problem so I am using editing / rewriting techniques a wonderful agent I met taught me several months ago. I also try to hold on when I notice situations like this in real life, seeing those differences, and keep the feelings fresh in my heart and head until I can sit down to properly describe them. I am making my own notebook of emotions so I can remember what I did, said and thought when those feelings flooded over me. It is a work in progress but that conversation about love and passion certainly was eye opening.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Day 98 - A Little Fish

Fish is the second book in the Sharing Strength series. It features Rachel Morris, a sixteen year old swimming star from Clydesburg, Illinois. She is a smart girl that loves her family, friends and swimming. She was brought up in the church and would do anything to make her parents proud. However when she finds herself in a compromising position she is sure she can turn to those she has always supported for help.

After a nightmare of a party Rachel does her best to move on from the events of the evening. She tries to talk to her parents though they do nothing but look at her with disappointment. Her friends shun her and even the coach on her swim team gives her chills worse than the pool. She begins to feel desperate for someone to talk to so she finds her best friend and co-capitan of the swim team only to discover she is one of the worst people when looking for help.

Isolated and falling deeper into despair Rachel branches out, looking for therapists or anyone that will listen. Her parents won't pay for anything and suggest she go "confess her sins" no matter how hard she proclaims her innocence. No one will believe her. Her heart breaks as she fights what seems to be a never-ending battle for anyone that will believe her side of the story.

Can Rachel find her hero in time or will life simply overwhelm her? What will become of the girl known as Fish?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Day 96 - Going Through Withdrawal

Last year I took part in a couple signings early in the year then filled in my summer months participating in craft shows. Unfortunately the craft shows proved to be less than ideal for authors. I did make a few sales here and there as well as had one of those moments where someone bought a book and took the time to contact me to let me know she truly enjoyed the story. Overall though it was not a great experience and ended up costing far more than I was able to earn. When I am able to get a few more books published and some merchandise created I may give it another shot but until then I don't think it is my best course.

This year I was excited to take part in more events. I thought I was on the right track when I got invited to be a part of signings at a couple of libraries, and then Authorpalooza came up earlier than last year. Things seemed to be off to a good start but now as I am working to push forward on my next group of projects I am feeling the pull to go to events and interact with readers. I know dedicated book events are best for being able to talk to readers as opposed to doing craft shows but at this point I am just wanting to be a part of things again.

It is like a strange form of social withdrawal and the only cure is to be a part of that environment. I am now researching events I can attend as well as continuing to write my books I have on tap for this year and even try to make progress on the design and inventory ordering of the merchandise I am creating. It is a slow process but I am sure I can get there if I can just stop feeling so scattered. Sometimes that is the most difficult part. When I have events to attend it helps keep me on track so I have enough books, bookmarks, swag and any other information needed to make each event special and successful.

People also ask from time to time, if they have seen you at more than one event, when the next book or books will be coming out. Because of that I need to make sure I am continuing to write as well as keep on top of my current books. There is a lot to do in order to make writing a viable business option, especially when you have a day job as well, but it is worth it. I just need to buckle down and make it happen. Right now I am off to find my next book event fix!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Day 95 - Changing Plans

About a month ago I was working to figure out a plan to keep me focused for the rest of the year along with the next few years. I knew my plan was ambitious to say the least but I was happy to have something I could work on, a list I could make my way down and cross things off as I accomplished them. There were items on there that involved keeping my blog updated (doing my best but I do miss days), completing writing projects including Breathe, the first of the Voices books edited and the second written, the third one drafted and the fourth outlined, edit Sharing Strength, doing the first of my new murder mystery books for Nanowrimo, and getting through my reading list.

In just the last few weeks this list has changed dramatically. Breathe has been worked on but the characters refuse to cooperate so they have been sent to the corner to think about what they did. The Voices books have been pushed to the back by books that decided to scream for attention louder. With Sharing Strength having a much better sense of direction when it comes to editing I was putting more effort into working on it and waking those characters up inspired Fish, Crash, and Combat to come to life. I had considered and previously rejected writing them but the characters woke up and shouted that they were ready to tell me their stories. They even gave me visuals of their covers making them seem more real.

Sharing Strength stayed on the list and I am still working to complete the edits so I can send it off to betas. Fish is in the process of being written, though like Survivor two years ago, it will be a challenge due to its emotional stirrings. I am prepared for the memories and emotions I will experience with this book more so than I was for Survivor but it will still take some time. Crash and Combat will also be emotional though they have more research than memory to raise issues.

I am still hoping to achieve my reading goals though I took longer off than I had originally expected so I am now woefully behind. I am still reading but I do not know if I will be able to finish my list before the end of the year. I am also still planning to complete the Nanowrimo part of my original to do list however it will no longer be the first murder mystery I write this year. My current project, being writing simultaneously with Fish, is also a murder mystery with a twist called The Last Piece. Sometimes writing is about being adaptable. You just need to be able to roll with the punches when the world forces you to change plans.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Day 92 - Overdoing It

When I first got into the writing world for the sake of publishing I was given advice by several different people about the best ways to build an audience. Almost all of the suggestions involved sing social media platforms as a base. The problem was I was told in order to be successful I basically had to be a part of at least half a dozen different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr, have a blog, create a website, and on and on without end. I can barely keep up with what I have which is only four of those.

I did finally create a website, writingforces.com. It is basic, I can admit that. I am still learning and will hopefully have some merchandise and a section for pictures soon but for now it is something at least. It took me over a year to learn to just do the simple things that are on it. I am proud of the fact I was able to figure it out and that I forced myself to sit down and finally accomplish that task that hung over my head for months.

I have had this blog for a few years though anyone that follows it knows just how inconsistent I can be when something else distracts me, or I distract myself. I have been doing my best to be more on top of things and I have only missed about a week and a half in the past ninety days or so. For me that is a huge improvement. I am hoping the push recently to commit to getting posts up everyday will remain as more of a habit instead of just lasting during this one focused effort but only time will tell.

I have been a part of Facebook for nearly a decade so that part was easier. I did, however, have to learn how to create and manage a page along with sharing links, adding my website and setting up events. Other than sharing the links for my daily blog posts I am still not great at posting there. I don't have Instagram because I take so few pictures but I am trying to include more and add them on my Facebook author page when I remember to take them. Mostly it is from events right now but with time I am trying to improve.

I added Twitter about three years ago but in all honesty I forget it is there half the time unless I get notification of a new follower. I don't participate in the paying for followers thing so I am just under 2500 but I am ok with that. Like everything else, there is a learning curve. I am not the best student but I try my best. What I find difficult to believe is that there are people that honestly believe you have to be a part of all of them in order to be successful.

If I were to post teasers and promos (which I would first have to create) in ten to fifteen groups on Facebook per day along with make two to three tweets per day plus interact with people on both sites for a few minutes per group in order to be an active participant, then write a blog post and share that around, and update my author page everyday I would spend most of my free time chained to my phone or computer. Now think about how much time it would take to do all of that, plus adding other sites you would have to interact and share on. You could easily spend hours just updating and sharing on social media and never even get a chance to actually write. Then of course there is editing, researching, beta reading, more editing, cover design and, oh yeah, let's not forget a lot of us have day jobs and families.

Being able to interact with your readers is a key to being successful. Not letting yourself get burnt out because you are trying to do so much you lose sight of the reason you are doing it in the first place is even more important. Balance is key. I am still learning to balance my ambition and need for focus with my obligations in order to find peace in every realm. Part of that, for me though, is not overdoing it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day 91 - Memorial Day

Today is not about writing for me. While I am always thinking about my books and the course of my next storyline, I would like to take today to reflect upon some of the people that have meant the world to me. It is a time of remembrance after all.

The first person that comes to mind is, of course, my boyfriend. Marine veteran SSG Steven F. Boyd is the man I share my life with. He is caring, compassionate and takes the time to give back to his community. Ever since he got his motorcycle last year he has been a part of a group called the Patriot Guard Riders who escort and lay to rest veterans with no families to claim them. He is also taking part in the annual Run For The Wall ride across the country. He is riding in honor of those that can't and I am proud to stand by him.

The second person I want to shine a light on was my grandfather John Fournier. My father's father, he served in the United States Army and was awarded the Purple Heart. I was very close with him when I was young and was only in middle school when he passed away. Cancer stole him but he has never left my heart. I was never privy to much of his military service but like Steve, He maintained his military style right up until his dying day, hair cut and all. I miss him deeply. When he passed the Purple heart went to my dad then on to my brother when he left us ten years ago. My brother, knowing how much it meant, has given the Purple Heart back to me.

The last person I want to mention is my friend Dan Conlon. Last year I posted a thank you to those that served our country both living and dead. He immediately chimed in to educate me and all others on the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. I know the difference but I wanted to say thank you to both groups and simply explained that. Dan, a Navy veteran, was also a table games dealer at the casino I work at for my day job. He struggled everyday both physically and emotionally. Eventually the battle was too much and sadly a few months ago my fellow dealer and my friend took his life.

We take a moment today to remember those we lost on the battlefields but there are battles happening right here as well. I am grateful I got to know him, that I was close with my grandpa, and that I have Steve in my life. These are just a few of the incredible people from the armed services I want to honor and thank today. Two are gone and one stands by me, all have been important in my life. I love you all. Thank you for your service!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day 90 - Rekindling The Fire

Between playing tour guide the next few days for a great friend in town as well as working the day job for a few of those days I am doing my best to keep my motivation going for The Last Piece, and Fish so I can spend Thursday making real progress of both. I am so excited to have projects I can visualize. I can see the covers, I can feel the energy from the characters. It is a feeling I haven't had for quite some time.

I still feel that overwhelming pressure when it comes to marketing but I have decided to make a dedicated effort between the blogs and newsletters I follow that teach topics like that as well as the books I own on the subject to treat the summer like a college term and make myself a much stronger student on marketing and book sales. I will be updating my website and maintaining things better (I hope). And now I finally have books that are begging to be written.

Along with learning the online side of things i am going to be doing my best to find more live shows to be a part of and planning a two week long, 15+ stop mini book tour for next year that will have at least five books and a limited amount of my merchandise available. It is a long planning process but I am finally feeling that push again.

I know when the feeling came on that perhaps I needed a break and it is something I am still dealing with. When I had to give up my beloved Rescue Me books it broke my heart. I am still in mourning for them but I have a new idea cooking that I am considering for a revising instead of stepping away completely. I will not be doing the anthology thing because I have unfortunately seen a very ugly side of people in the process of those books so I am developing a book idea in partnership with my boyfriend and his photographer skills. Those books will again benefit animals but I am working on a new style of promotion and partnership.

Sometimes it can be frustrating to step back from something you love but when it comes to the creative world, the last thing you can do is force it. If I can stay on track and keep this new fire in my heart, the rest of the year will be very productive and I can't wait!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Day 89 - Physical Labor

It has been almost a week since I was able to get a blog post up. I have had a friend visiting and was working so I didn't have any time I was attached to my computer. I was given the opportunity recently to submit a pitch that included brief descriptions of a main and up to three supporting characters, a synopsis no more than three paragraphs and my bio as an author. It was to one of the Big 5 major publishers so I knew my shorter novellas would never get much interest so I skipped those right away. I could have picked Voices In My Head, Sharing Strength, or Breath but instead I decided to send off an idea that was not even fully realized just for the sale of getting feedback on my pitch abilities, or lack thereof.

Not only did I get feedback on the pitch, they actually liked the idea for the story. Knowing it wasn't completed (or even started to be honest) they gave me a submission deadline later on this summer. They thought the idea was original and could have appeal in several markets. I was shocked and thrilled to get the news. Then I began to realize just how much I didn't know about the book. The idea was only a random thought I had a few years ago that never completely left my mind. It is a murder mystery with an unexpected perspective that I wanted to showcase and now I will get to however I had a laundry list of things I needed to figure out before I could even begin. Yikes!

After spending the better part of a day having a staring contest with the blank screen on my computer I decided I needed some distance. Most writers I know would have simply worked on a different project, I most definitely have others to write. Instead I opted for the ignore my computer and focus on physical labor answer to my problem instead. I spent several hours working things and letting my mind drift as I pushed forward on a purely physical endeavor. Believe it or not, it worked. I had breakthroughs while standing out in the sun doing my best to complete a task. I learned character names as I shopped for supplies. I found my opening scene and the cover idea while I was gulping water to stay hydrated.

I came in yesterday to take a break from my physical project and managed to get an entire list of notes on the story. I am so excited to be writing this book, now I even have something more concrete to focus on. Physical labor may not work for everyone but I am going to keep that handy little secret in my back pocket for the next time I have something holding me back and need to have that magical epiphany. Plus, I got a good workout at the same time, bonus!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 83 - Original Ideas

Back in January when I attended the writer's conference, I attended with the hope of submitting and getting feedback on my books Voices In My Head and Sharing Strength. I sent the first ten pages of each off to perspective agents and editors with breath held and fingers crossed. I tossed and turned the night before my meetings and went in to each doing my best to hide the severe stomach pain and turmoil in my mind. After I sat down with the agents and was feeling thoroughly lost and rejected I went to lunch and had a wonderful lunch with a different agent / editor-in-chief.

That night during the networking dinner I again sat with that same man and we discussed both my books. He showed interest in Voices seeing as how he works with an imprint that represents darker stories. He did ask about Sharing Strength though. We talked about my connection to the issues of PTSD and I shared part of the inspiration behind the story with him as well as a few other authors sitting at the table with me. I could see the other writers were politely listening but also getting a little bummed out by the heavy topic of PTSD.

When we left the networking event and went to the bar in the hotel to continue chatting I decided to lighten the mood by telling silly dealer stories. After half a dozen anecdotes everyone began to relax and laugh. It didn't take long before they were hanging on my every word and telling me that was the book I should be telling. I even had an agent request to read the manuscript regardless of the fact I insisted it was not actually a book.

Along the same lines, a few months ago I came across a notice in a writer's group on Facebook inviting authors to submit a synopsis and set of character bios to a publisher. If they liked the idea they would assign a contact and deadline. If you met that deadline and got an edited draft to your contact person you would be given consideration for publication but at least feedback if not a contract. They were also going to be giving feedback on the pitches in order to help authors improve their pitching and query skills.

I took advantage of the opportunity to pitch a story I have not even truly begun to plot out. I had a truly random idea inspired by a conversation with my mom about people like my cousin that are treated differently by society simply because of the way they behave. I thought about writing a short story, perhaps a novel, with a character inspired by him where he could be the hero. I wanted to show that just because people are different or have a disability does not make them bad or worthless. I knew the story idea was completely out in left field but all I was looking for was the feedback on the pitch anyway. Instead I got a response with a contact and deadline saying the idea was unique and they were extremely interested. I am now deep in research mode to learn more about my hero and make sure I properly represent him.

As a writer I spend hours, days, even weeks trying to come up with an idea that is original. I want to share my own perspectives on the world and bring people into a world they may not be well connected with. However it seems like my best ideas come when I am not trying at all. When I simply step back and just let the world happen I find the stories that make other sit up and take notice. I am looking forward to sharing what will hopefully be a great story as I work simultaneously to write Fish and now work to create The Last Piece.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Day 82 - Recovery

Yesterday when I should have been up writing my Day 81 post I was getting some much needed sleep. For those that follow this blog periodically you know my boyfriend and support system is making a cross-country motorcycle trip in honor of those who are unable to make the trip themselves. A few nights ago he had a small setback and found himself feeling lost. While I have never made a trip like the one he is on I have definitely felt lost and needed help form those around me.

He has since rejoined his group and I couldn't be more proud of what he is doing and the fact that he accepted assistance and returned even though it was difficult. What he is doing is not writing related in any way yet as I see him moving forward on his journey it inspires me to keep achieving new levels in my writing passion as well. The books I am writing are emotional and have times of darkness I wish I didn't have to write. But they are important to the story and to reaching the final destiny of each character.

No matter what you are doing in life there will be things that happen you wish you could hit fast forward and avoid. Whether you are writing a novel, making a long trip or just dealing with day to day activities you will always have to handle things that come up and may be unpleasant. As the old saying goes however, it isn't if you fall down it's that you get back up. Everyone has setbacks. Everyone has struggles. Stepping back to reanalyze or readjust isn't what counts, you just have to find your inner strength and move forward again.

Recovering from an issue says far more than the fact the issue arose in the first place. It is important to know you are not alone when you struggle. We all need that support from time to time. I am thrilled to be here when my boyfriend needs me and he has sat by my side more times than I can count when I have fallen down. We have been together seven years and in that time I have grown more, learned more and healed more than I ever dreamed possible. My other friends have pushed me on but he  and my mom have been the largest reasons I have come as far as I have. I cannot thank either of them enough for helping me anytime I need a little recovery.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Day 80 - Who's To Blame

Yesterday the world lost an icon when Chris Cornell passed away. I heard about his death first as breaking news while I watched my local news network early in the morning. While I was not a fan of Soundgarden or Audioslave personally, I recognize him for the talent and leader of the grunge movement he was. As the day went on, there were interviews with people that knew him as well as fans all coming out to share their experiences and memories. Updates to the news rolled in periodically first announcing where and that it was ruled a suicide then finally details to fill the gaps.

This morning I woke up to see announcements of blame. Medication that had been prescribed for him had apparently turned into a threat instead of being an assistance. There are pictures and videos to demonstrate how much trouble he was having at the end and the blame on the medication to say he had no idea what he was doing when he hung himself. I am not here to say I have any idea what happened in the case of Chris Cornell but it seems like a relevant subject as I am covering the subject of PTSD in Sharing Strength. Suicide is a very real outcome for many suffering from the disorder.

The reason I wanted to mention it is because I have noticed a pattern whenever someone dies especially from suicide. We, those of the human race that do not feel the need to end our lives, cannot understand why someone would take such a drastic step. Yesterday it was Chris Cornell, before that we lost Robin Williams and there have been many others. We search for answers when many times there is no one to blame.

Depression, trauma, stress, medication, bullying, there are multiple reasons someone could feel the need to end things. For me it is not as shocking that the person gave in to that dark and desperate feeling but the desperation felt by those looking for a quick reason to accuse instead of accepting that we may never truly understand. The pain inside someone can simply be overwhelming. Sometimes there is a reason, other times it is all inside them. We cannot explain everything all the time. As the next few days unfold and the psychology of a man clearly in pain, whether internally or medically induced, is examined and analyzed over and over, it will be the psychology and desperation of those doing the analysis I will be watching. Partially for research but also as someone that considered ending things myself once. It makes me wonder what excuses people would have made for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 79 - Prequel

When I began working on Sharing Strength I was focused exclusively on that story. I knew it would be different than Never Give Up when it came to main characters because first and foremost there are six of them. Never Give Up centers around Akaylia with supporting characters coming and going as the story unfolds. Sharing Strength has five characters that all play central roles and one that is just as important but stands in the background slightly more often. I had no idea the life that book would take on when I first began the story.

Sharing Strength was conceptualized in the early months of 2014. It did not become a reality, or at least a full first draft, until September of last year. It took a great deal of time but even more emotion to finish the story and the characters took their toll on me. A year earlier, in October of 2015, I released the novella Survivor, a book that tells the back story of Jasmine Byers. She is a domestic abuse relationship victim and it gives her terrible PTSD. She is one of the people in Sharing Strength. It was the first time I wrote a prequel of any kind and knowing where it was heading in Sharing Strength made it difficult. Not that I would be giving away her final fate in any way but knowing how much to share, what was foreshadowing, and when to stop all proved to be harder than I originally thought.

The same goes for Fish. Usually I have that one final ending scene in my mind for a book that I think will make the greatest impact on the reader but with Crash, Combat, and of course Fish, I have the next chapter of their lives to keep in mind. It is also entirely possible that as I write the prequels I will learn more about the characters and have to modify them in Sharing Strength when I go back to edit. I had intended to do the first round of edits as I was creating the novella series but I am now considering holding off for the time being in order to make sure there are no major plot changes that arise from the current projects.

It is a new experience all together to learn more about characters I thought I knew well. Just the other day as I was writing the opening of Fish I had one of the writer epiphanies I live for. I knew what was coming but I had no idea who was responsible for the situation or the aftermath. Now that I know, there is a whole extra level of emotion I need to taper in as I write the scenes that are coming next. It will make the story more interesting and for that I am grateful but I feel bad that I have to traumatize the poor girl more than I had assumed I would. Anyone that has read Survivor knows the books will be on the darker side since they are leading to a book about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but the fact that they all are in the next book should at least give some hope.

I am just now fully understanding how emotional this book is going to be for me as a writer. Survivor was based on my story of abuse and telling it was both therapeutic as well as awful for me. Rachel Morris is not living the same life I did but like all my characters I can see a piece of myself in her so I know there will come a moment I feel that connection which will break my heart, at least temporarily. I just hope she can forgive me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Day 78 - Creative Surroundings

I saw a post by a fellow author about how "Art-Friendly" the state of Colorado is. She feels that moving there was a great choice creatively as well as for her family. The pictures of the scenery are certainly breathtaking and I have heard the number of festivals and events celebrating the arts are larger in Colorado than many surrounding states but it made me think about my own choices. I have moved a couple times and traveled more in search of that one place or person or thing that makes me feel complete. Ultimately I have had to sit down and realize, it was within me all along.

When I traveled to Japan, both in high school and even more significantly about nine years ago, I absorbed a culture and language I find both challenging and beautiful. Taking the time to learn the train system, risking rides I wasn't totally sure about the destination of and walking along streets with names I couldn't pronounce gave me experiences I can never replace nor repeat. I loved every second of those trips.

Volunteering in Australia was life altering. It was a time in my life I needed a dramatic change and it led to a heartbreaking moment that caused me to fully face myself and find a way to be alright with who I am. I hated that feeling. I also wouldn't change it for anything in the world. The same can be said for my brief stint in St. Louis, MO. I truly disliked living there. My roommate was a nightmare and I escaped every chance I got but it is also the place I first began writing again.

Finally I got to Vegas. After living much of my life in the green lands of Michigan, surrounded by the lakes and kissed by the sun within the smells of fresh cut grass, pine trees and natural woodlands how could I possibly find inspiration in the constant brown of the desert? The fact of the matter is I found more than just inspiration, I found myself. I spent most of my life feeling suffocated and like a puzzle piece that accidentally got put away in the wrong box. When I made it to Vegas I was scared but I was also home. There are more than just shades of brown in the desert. I have found the entire spectrum here. I brought with me all of the places I traveled and the experiences I have had. I kept in my heart the friendships that have helped me and opened my life to finding new moments I could share with the world. Colorado may be the artistic haven some seek and so may Michigan or Japan. The most important thing I ever discovered was that my perfect and completing place, person and thing I spent so long searching for is right inside me and always will be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Day 77 - My Turn To Show Support

For those that read this on a semi-regular basis, you know about my boyfriend. He is a kind, supportive, and occasionally tough guy that stands behind me with a hand on my back to hold me up, and sometimes, push me forward. He is the one that got me to really work hard on my personal weight loss goals and has gone to the doctor more time than I can count when my medical issues overwhelmed me. He has given input on my cover art and even suggested ways to set my table during book shows. He designed my promotional signs and cards plus acted as the emcee for the release event for my book Survivor.

Today he is doing something amazing of his own and I wanted to take some time and share with you all how incredible it is. Almost a year ago he purchased a motorcycle. It wasn't a midlife crisis or a random need for speed and the open road. He bought it so he could take part in events for fallen soldiers through groups like the Patriot Guard Riders. He helps escort deceased military men and women to their final resting place as well as provide escort and protection for people taking part in events like the Honor Ride bicycle ride. I didn't think I could be more proud.

Then came his latest adventure, which officially kicks off tomorrow morning. He is participating for the first time in the annual Run For The Wall. It's a trip that crosses the country from Ontario California all the way to the War Memorial in Washington D.C. They ride in honor and remembrance of those unable to make the ride themselves. Along with taking part in such a moving and honorable venture, he took it a step further and brought along symbolic keychains made to represent his brother-in-law, his father and my grandfather. Three branches of the military flying in the wind as he rides down the road.

To say I am proud of him is an understatement. The depth of his commitment and service is unmatched in anyone I have ever met. He is thoughtful, loving and moved himself by the event he is becoming a part of. He is a tremendous member of the community of bikers and what they are doing over the next couple of weeks is nothing short of amazing. I am here to support him in everything he does and just wanted to share with the world a small peek into a man that is my own inspiration.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Day 76 - Starting Over

So today I have 2 blog posts because as tired as I was at the end of the day yesterday I forgot to hit publish. Even so I am excited to be working on a project that inspires me so I wanted to make sure I got the chance to share. There are actually three books that are pressing me for attention and I have mentioned them all before. Crash, Combat, and Fish all are books like Survivor that tell the "how I got here" story of a character or characters from my full length novel Sharing Strength.

Combat I will need to wait a little on because there is a decent amount of research to be done in order to get the storyline correct. Fish is, in part, based on a true story just like Survivor though not to the same extent. Crash is completely fictional and will mostly require sitting down for the meditation and connection to Craig, the main character. Because I do not have a personal and emotional tie to Crash I had intended to start with that book. I was having trouble starting, which is common for me, however so I decided to do some physical labor in an effort to clear my mind earlier today.

I mean after all, I am a writer with three books to write, a day off from my regular job and no one around to distract me, of course it was the perfect time to go out and landscape my backyard. As I was busy shoveling rocks and trying not to swallow blowing dirt I tried to open my mind up to that beginning scene of Crash. I couldn't picture it. No matter how hard I focused, or didn't focus as the case may be, I just wasn't getting a connection to the story. Instead I kept seeing a swimming pool in my mind's eye. I kept seeing Fish.

Rachel, the main character of Fish is a co-captain of her high school swim team. She is state ranked and is said to move through the water like a natural born fish. She is quiet and a good, church-going girl from an extremely religious family in a small town in the middle of Illinois. All she wants to do is swim, spend time with her friends and make her family proud. The problem is that by trying to do the right thing one night she ends up in a terrible situation and has to deal with the fall out. Will her family and friends support her and help her through the difficult times ahead or is fish going to drown in a situation she never intended to be in?

Day 75 - Working With An Issue

There is an understanding in any job that you will not get along with everyone. Sometimes it is your boss or it can be someone that is a vendor for your company. Sometimes you're the boss and the person you clash with is a subordinate. Regardless of who it is the worst thing that can happen is letting that personal concern become a professional disaster.

Authors are, in a large way, solo employees but there are many that we come into contact with during the course of writing and publication of even just one of our books. We may sit for hours at a time in the solitude of our minds but depending on your proficiency with various aspects of the process you will still utilize the expertise of beta readers, editors, cover artists, and a formatter. There are also bloggers and marketing PAs you might get in contact with. Not to mention the people that will help you out and you will have to work hand in hand with if you do any online or live events for the release and follow up when the book is published.

We also network with other authors. It is one of the best and yet most difficult things we do in promotion of our work. Some of my closest friends have come from these networking moments and I have learned more than I ever thought possible. The difficult part comes when an author acts unprofessionally or does something that makes you lose respect for them or their work. It would be easy to say just walk away or work with someone new but what if you already have a connection or partnership with them? What if have or had plans to work on something together but they do not hold up their end of the work? How do you move forward when you are stuck waiting on them?

What do you do if the person you have worked with is acting in a way that not only represents them as unprofessional but because you are or have been connected with them it brings your reputation down as well? Again, it seems easy to say not to get mixed up with people like that but it can take a long time to find out they will behave that way. Protecting yourself is vital in any profession. It is heartbreaking to have to make the choice between someone you have worked with and moving forward without them but if you do it in a professional and unemotionally charged way hopefully you can both keep your reputations in tact and simply go on to bigger and better things separately.